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I Rate the PM 5 Out of 10

Entry 2037, on 2020-04-09 at 12:04:06 (Rating 4, Politics)

I think we are all getting pretty sick of COVID-19 now, aren't we? I know I certainly am, but I want to do one more blog post about it before I move on to more interesting subjects. So, get through this post and I promise I'll write some material about deeper and more meaningful subjects, like the true nature of reality, or the existence of free will, or maybe even Apple's latest product!

Yesterday I was debating people on Facebook - as I often do - and encountered a quite vicious reaction to some of my points. This is no great surprise, of course, because I do like to offer alternative opinions on contentious subjects, and often people whose ideas differ from mine don't like that.

So I'll briefly present the discussion here, and then comment on the wider aspects of the points I was trying to make.

The Facebook article I was commented on was one about how some people think our prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, is doing such a fantastic job, and is such an inspirational leader. I don't find Ardern an exceptionally inspiring, or even competent, leader even though I voted for her, and even suggested to the Labour party that they should make her leader (the party sends out emails asking for feedback, and I offered this when the previous leader was not rating well with the public).

So I'm not exactly a right-wing nutter who is going to criticise any leader on the political left, and as I have said in the past, I don't really see myself as either left or right. But after Ardern became leader I have decided that I actually don't like her very much. But even that's not the point, because I can still admit when someone I don't like is doing good job (and conversely, when someone I do like is doing a bad job).

But is she doing a good job? Well, that depends on what aspects of the job of being PM you see as important, and it also depends on your priorities for policy, and preferences in style.

In my comment I said I wondered what planet the article praising her came from, and that she really only deserved a score of 5 out of 10. Giving someone you don't like and who you are critical of a pass mark of 50% was moderately generous I thought, but some of my opponents didn't agree.

Here are some comments aimed at me after making the comment...

This one wasn't too bad: "Oh youíre one of those!!! Enough said. Backing away now to where the sane people are!!!!!!!"

But this one was a bit extreme: "hey mate I reckon u should shut ur fxxxn face, hope ur stupid arse gets rona and feel it's full affect and fxxx off and die".

So it didn't sound like either of those people were really interested in a sensible discussion or to hear any alternative opinions!

But a couple of people did ask for clarification of my position, in a fairly sensible way, like this: "so your [sic] thinking, What?"

So I told them where I thought the PM had got it wrong...

First I said this: "She has put extreme restrictions in place where they shouldn't be. Not put restrictions in place where they should. Turned people against each other. And talks BS. Is that enough? I'm not saying her performance is completely bad (I did rate her 5/10) but the fawning admiration we see from the media is pathetic (but it's the media, so what do you expect). BTW, I did vote for her, and I criticised John Key in a very similar way."

And offered these improvements: "Loosen up the rules on delivery of products, what businesses can be open, etc. Tighten restrictions at the border. Be more professional and less evasive answering questions. Try to make timely decisions instead of waiting to see what other countries do. There's a few ideas for a start."

Because I really don't think she has done a very good job (by the way, I understand that the PM doesn't make every decision herself, but she is the figurehead for the system of committees and organisations that do).

Before I start with the criticisms, I should say what has she done well, because I did give her a score of 50% indicating I must think she got some stuff right! Well, the stats indicate the spread of coronavirus in New Zealand has been contained quite well. We have done better than most other countries, so she should get some credit for that. But that's not where it ends, for three main reasons...

First, she did have a much easier job than most, because the spread of the disease here happened weeks after almost every other country, so she was able to learn from the mistakes that others had already made. Also, she gave herself dictatorial powers, thanks to the state of emergency, so she could introduce quite extreme measures without having to consider alternative views. Finally, I regret to have to say that most New Zealanders are just as easily lead astray as the animal we are often associated with: sheep!

Second, anyone can create rules which solve one problem if they don't pay too much attention to the consequences which might generate even more problems. By this I mean that the quite extreme lockdown rules we have here, don't take too much notice of the side effects to people's well-being and the economy.

Now, a good case could be made to say that reducing the effects of COVID-19 is so critical that we should just set the economic effects to one side. After all, we are talking about people's lives here, which most people would say is more important than the economy. But the economy is also important, as is the need for people to socialise with their friends and family. And although I recognise that there are significant problems with capitalism, it is the system we currently operate under, and it needs to be maintained unless we can find something better.

So taking a slightly higher risk but giving the people more freedom would be a better choice, in my opinion. Could I justify that if even one more person died as a result? Actually, yes. We make that compromise all the time. Hundreds of people die in New Zealand every year as a result of work-related accidents and diseases. And every week people die on the road because they engage in a risky activity (driving) for social purposes.

So we are already making a judgement that we regrettably have to accept some deaths (and injuries and sickness) as a result of both work and normal social activities. In what way is it different in allowing greater freedom during this crisis by accepting a small additional risk?

The third reason is the arbitrariness and changeability of the rules. A fruit and vegetable store was allowed to stay open, while a butchery had to close (I think that is correct, but if it isn't similar anomalies exist). A cigarette manufacturer was still operating, but a flower producer had to destroy his plants. The rules around driving changed several times. No one seems to know many of the details, so now we just have a ban on driving almost completely, enforced by the police.

In fact, police say they will set up road-blocks over the Easter break. This really is starting to get the feeling of a police state, with draconian rules created by an out of touch elite and uncompromisingly enforced by their goons in the police!

Actually, I have though of one more area where the PM could do better. Cut the BS! Every time she speaks I get the feeling I'm being lied to, or maybe being treated like a child by being inflicted with ridiculous platitudes. And sure, it's not easy to talk about this subject, but compare Ardern's nonsense with the (mostly) measured and sensible effort by Ashley Bloomfield, the Director-General of Health, who I am moderately impressed by.

But the thing that concerns me the most is how the media seem to get into a mindset that certain politicians must be treated with more respect, and even affection, than others. Ardern is definitely in this group, as was our previous prime minister, who belonged to the opposing party, so at least this isn't a partisan issue.

Many people criticised me because they think we should be aiming for more agreement and cooperation in these difficult times, but I disagree. When decisions like these are being made it is more important than ever to hold politicians to account, and that is why listening to iconoclasts like myself is so important.

In summary, Ardern certainly isn't the worst possible leader we could have, but I don't think she is even close to being perfect either, so I think a rating of 5 out of 10 is perfectly reasonable!

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Comment 1 (5252) by Jim Cable on 2020-04-09 at 18:18:46:

Owen, as one who has debated politics with you on several occasions, this time surprisingly I'm in almost complete agreement with your synopsis - with the exception of your early rationale that Jacinda would make a good leader. Like so many leftists, she was only ever a dreamer-fronter, nothing more. She lacked commercial experience other than chip-wrapping, yet still knew how to run a country. As always, socialists' ignorance - but self-confident knowledge of everything despite that - is their elemental credo. Socialist administrations only know how to spend money - outside of taxation, making productive revenue is a totally different ball-game.

You've itemised and reasoned your assertions with full recognition of the actuality we're enduring. I assume the inarticulate negativism that you attracted stemmed from persons too intellectually feeble to be in any way aware. Such attitudes reveal they're almost certainly a danger to themselves. Brainlessness, together with a corrupt inability to think, are increasingly common these days, especially among those who've scored today's easily won academic qualifications - just as Jacinda has utilised her "communications degree" so effectively. God knows what will be the country's indebtedness at the demise of this "coalition."

My compliments.

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Comment 2 (5253) by OJB on 2020-04-10 at 22:46:03:

Yeah, I tried not to make this a left versus right thing, and reach perhaps inevitable conclusions based on that distinction. Instead, i tried to just look at the good and bad things about her actual performance.

I agree that Labour are very good at spending money, and this administration is no exception. Part of the Jacinda fan club I find most annoying is how she is praised for spending money (presumably on what her fans think are worthy projects). But it's easy for her; it's not her money - it's ours!

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Comment 3 (5254) by Anonymous on 2020-04-16 at 14:59:50:

I thought you weren't trying to make this left or right? "But it's easy for her; it's not her money - it's ours!" - sounds like an entry from the ACT playbook.

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Comment 4 (5256) by OJB on 2020-04-16 at 21:31:10:

There are aspects of Act policy I agree with, and others I donít. I think appropriate government spending is a good thing. Iím just pointing out that throwing tax payer cash around is easy.

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